Washington (CNN) – Several Congressional Hispanic leaders met with President Obama Tuesday to ask for his help in building support for a bill, known as the DREAM Act, which would award citizenship to illegal immigrants who have gone to college or served in the military.
Advocates for comprehensive immigration reform believe the lame duck session may the best opportunity to pass one concrete immigration reform measure before Republicans take control of the House of Representatives in January.
The President sat down with Sen. Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey) and Reps. Luis Gutierrez (D-Illinois) and Nydia Velazquez (D-New Jersey) to discuss the issue.
After the meeting, Gutierrez told reporters that Mr. Obama committed to make phone calls to members to push for comprehensive reform, but will ask for support on the DREAM measure "as down payment."
In a statement, Gutierrez said the DREAM Act is "the only piece of immigration reform legislation that can get broad support from Democrats and has attracted significant Republican support in the recent past."
The White House said in a statement following the meeting, "The President and the CHC (Congressional Hispanic Caucus) leaders believe that, before adjourning, Congress should approve the DREAM Act. This legislation has traditionally enjoyed support from Democratic and Republican lawmakers and would give young people who were brought as minors to the United States by their parents the opportunity to earn their citizenship by pursuing a college degree or through military service."
Both Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) have indicated they hope to bring the bill to the floor during this lame duck session.
"He (Reid) still hopes to bring it to the floor for a vote. We are still discussing how to proceed," Reid spokesman Jim Manley told CNN.
Guiterrez said Tuesday's meeting was aimed at coordinating efforts to help push the bill.
"When I met with the President today, I told him that we need him to join us in fighting for the DREAM Act. I told the President we need him now and that we cannot waste another day and must push for a DREAM Act vote in the House and Senate during the lame duck. It is not time to hesitate or be unclear about what we are fighting for. We need the DREAM Act," Gutierrez said in his statement.
"I see it as a down payment on comprehensive reform and we will continue working towards comprehensive immigration reform today, tomorrow, and until it passes. But I will not pass up the chance to save a million or more children who grew up in the U.S., who know no other country, and who are threatened with deportation unless we act."
Mr. Obama, according to the White House, asked the members he met with to help restore a bipartisan coalition that would back comprehensive reform.
"The President repeated his hope that, with the election season's pressures past, Congressional Republicans would work with their Democratic colleagues not only to strengthen security at the nation's borders, but also to restore responsibility and accountability to what everyone agrees is a broken immigration system," the White House said in the statement. "The President reiterated his strong support for bipartisan Congressional action on immigration reform at the earliest opportunity, noting that the American people expect both parties to work together to tackle the challenges confronting our nation."
Gutierrez and the others who met with the President also hope to see major reform, but, Gutierrez said, Democrats should take advantage of the opportunity now in the lame duck to get this targeted measure through Congress.
He dismissed the argument from some advocates that doing something incremental will hurt chances to push a more comprehensive bill in the future.
"This is what is real, what is possible – should we jeopardize the possibility to get two million young men and women a pathway to legalization because we want more? We told him that it is absolutely the incorrect way to approach this," he said.
Hispanics are a key constituency for Democrats, and immigration reform is an important priority for that constituency. The failure to achieve some type of immigration overhaul may have hurt the Democrats in the 2010 election, since the party controlled both houses of Congress and the White House. According to a CNN exit poll, Democratic congressional candidates received the lowest amount of votes from Hispanics since the 1998 election.
However, in several states with sizeable Hispanic populations, those voters are credited with making the difference in some key Democratic Senate races by propelling Reid (Nevada), Barbara Boxer (California) and Michael Bennet (Colorado) to victory. Guiterrez credits those candidate's positions on immigration reform with helping them garner the Hispanic vote.
The immigration push comes one day after the California Supreme Court ruled unanimously that illegal immigrant students who attended public high schools are eligible to receive in-state tuition rates at California public universities and colleges - a move which would save the students a significant amount of money. California is one of a number of states which allow such undocumented students to receive cheaper tuition. Opponents who are fighting the state argue that the ruling wrongly rewards illegal immigrants. State officials have countered that they are not violating federal law because they can give the benefit to those who attended state high schools for at least 3 years, regardless of the students' immigration status.
– CNN Congressional Producer Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report.
Follow Kevin Bohn on Twitter @KevinBohnCNN
Record unemployment, companies continuing to send jobs overseas, and Democrats want to put in a large legalization program that will only encourage even more people to come here illegally? Amazing. I guess their goal is clear – more Democratic voters. Never mind the quality of life of their current constituents, the legal residents and US citizens. What's even more amazing is that there are apparently some constituents who continue to believe the politicians are interested in their well being.
Why would we "award citizenship to illegal immigrants who have gone to college"? When I was in undergrad, there were many foreign students. None of them were granted citizenship.
Obama cannot stand up for the rights of US citizens, for example gays deserving the same rights as everyone else and Americans not being subjected to their less than optimal choice of radiation or sexual assault at airports, but he's all over it when illegals' rights might be infringed upon. Someone.....please come up a third party that looks after regular American citizens, not the extreme rich or those here illegally....and not those tea party loons.
please mr. obama help us get an education so we can contribute to society and make a change. thats all we ask for.
Obama and all the others pushing for the DREAM ACT can shove it where the sun don't shine. Reagan made a monumental mistake when he granted amnesty, it opened the flood gates of illegals coming into the US. Enough with the bending over for illegals. And California, what a mess, bankrupt state pretty much, borrowing money everyday from the Government to which the rest of the people pay into and they still do not get it there. ENOUGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The judges in Cali are idiots for granting illegals cheaper tuition. Good on ya for rewarding criminal behavior.
Can't people understand the difference between legal and illegal, or they don't want to? This is the country with the more flexible immigration laws in the whole world, and still people abuse it. How can someone who entered this country illegally has the nerve to talk about his rights in this country? It is like someone breaking into your house and telling you about his rights to stay, and that you have to treat him/her well, and that you have to provide food for him/her and his/her family, and that you have to pay his/her medical expenses, and that when they have children, these have also the right to stay. I just don't get it. However, in their countries, they are very hostile against immigrants.
President Obama we are all immigrants. Pass this bill. Let these children get their education. It's better then them being idle and getting into trouble. It is the right thing to do. They are Americans just like anyone else if this is the only country they know. They are very hard working and will appreciate the privilege of becoming a citizen or serving in the military.
"Dream Act" has a nice ring to it! Yes, push for it!
Republicans are "s l u t s" for votes. They will have a tough time sticking to their "NO" motto!
I agree..ONLY if they haved served in the military..and NOT if they went to school using MY tax dollars. What I do not understand is how can they be in OUR military...they are citzens of another country. Where is the logic?
Dream Act? Sounds more like a nightmare to me. For as long as I remember we recruited "the best and the brightest" to serve
in our military. Now we must delve into the shadows of our society to find them? Nay, I say. You do not reward those who
live outside the law and call it reform. Reform means changing what is wrong and making it better; not creating another wrong. If Obama wants to put himself into shape for another run for president, then he must get rid of bad ideas like the
The DREAM ACT is a very good place to start immigration reform,but you can count on Repubs/TeaP not to want it! Why in the WORLD ANY Hispanic,or AAmer.person would have voted for them I will never understand~bunch of racists for sure~and I am white,but I still believe in our country~something many have forgotten~but I think they will figure it out soon! if its not too late by time these people get done!
I'm confused- how did illegal aliens serve in our military? does our government do any sort of background check beofre allowing someone to enlist?
Ad President Obama- what are you thinking? Why not finish what you've started and push for the infrastructure jobs, eco- friendly businesses elimination of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and DADT.
I know Thanksgiving is right around the corner, but your plate is a little full, even for a holiday!
A good idea for those that served this great country. But equivocating military service and college attendance is a big mistake that needs to be fixed. Soldiers and certain other services involve committing your life in the defense of this country. A price that many citizens have not been brave enought to pay. Going to college may make a person productive but it doesn't equate to a worthy citizen - student visas are adequate for that.
Another, "yes we can" speech! Just in another package!
I'm for the DREAM Act, but I still feel that if you are here illegally that you should pay a fine. You should not be awarded for a crime.
Sorry to the Hispanics hoping this will see the light of day, it will not, President Obama will bungle it like he has DADT.
A lot of lip service to equality but in the end he will cave to the Reds and you will see no progress either.
Over 95% of all illegal aliens would be eligible since the age limit is 35 and it's not possible to determine how long an illegal has been here.
Nothing could be more wrong that giving illegal aliens the same privileges as U.S. citizens much less giving them even more privileges than U.S. citizens. Having taxpayers pay to allow illegal's to have a cheaper education than our own citizens is absolutely insane and wrong.